Our communities have been very desirable for families for many years with great neighborhoods, quality schools and what was once an easy commute to the business centers of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. Now that proximity to the South Bay and the cluster of executives and other talented professionals living here has spawned a “thriving micro-economy.”
That’s the view of Mirador Capital Partners, an investment firm founded by Pleasanton resident Don Garman. He left a Wall Street company in 2013 to form Mirador with the goal of providing the service of a big firm with an eye to investing in the expanding Tri-Valley business and start-up community.
For the last 18 months, he has been working with Greg Hitchan, an experienced investor both locally and throughout the Bay Area. Hitchan, like Garman, is raising his family in Pleasanton (his wife is CBS TV anchor Juliette Goodrich). Hitchan spent most of his career with Blum Capital in San Francisco before transitioning to the Tri-Valley where he ran a co-working space for three years in Hacienda Business Park. He has deep ties to the major Silicon Valley venture capital firms and a broad network.
Greg and Don started talking and they found they shared an interest is helping local early-stage companies. They have established Tri-Valley Ventures together with serial entrepreneur Dave Seligner (co-founder of real estate tech firm RedFin) and John Murphy. They are in the home stretch of raising their first $10 million venture fund.
They see that capital propelling small firms before Greg uses his connections to hand them off to the more established Silicon Valley venture capital companies. The companies started here often are led by experienced executives who know how to build firms and already are living here.
As Selinger put it in the Mirador report, “the great thing about starting this company in Pleasanton is I actually get to see my kids.” That’s an attitude common to senior leaders who are sick and tired of crossing bridges to get to work.
One key difference is the approach that Garman and Hitchan are taking. Typically, venture firms make a few people very happy financially. Their goal with the fund is to broaden that so there are 10 times as many happy folks.
“We want to see lots of paddles go up at the benefit auctions for our schools, not just a few,” Garman said. They believe that will result in a much healthier community.
“The mission of Tri-Valley Ventures is a broad, wide tent that makes 60-70 families money, not just a few. We want to create an ecosystem here for start-ups. We see the Tri-Valley as the way Silicon Valley was 50 years ago,” said explained.
They’ve been working together on the fund for 18 months and have yet to profit $1 from it—they are committed to their vision for the Tri-Valley.
Garman and his team established the Tri-Valley Index (MTVX) to track publicly traded companies headquartered in the valley versus the S&P 500. Looking from 2006 to 2016, returns on the Tri-Valley Index out-paced the S&P at an annualized rate of 21 percent compared to 7 percent for the S&P. Over the last five years, the local index has returned 38 percent over the last five years compared to 15 percent for the S&P. Mirador clients can invest in the fund.
The Tri-Valley start-up culture has its roots in the national labs that have been far more focused on pushing their technology into the private sector in the last number of years. It also has been enhanced by I-GATE, the joint venture between the labs and the city of Livermore that in its seven-year history has seen companies spawn there raise more than $50 million in venture capital and employ more than 100 people.
The Mirador View believes that the Tri-Valley has two sectors that are doing particularly well here: cloud computing led by Workday and Veeva and medical technology. Workday and Veeva rank No. 2 (behind Salesforce) and No. 4 respectively in Cloud computing. Veeva’s customer-relationship management is designed for life sciences and pharmaceutical firms—the firm was founded in 2007 and has a current market cap of $6.5 billion.
To read the report, please click here.